A guest post today from Alex Neil, Minister for Housing and Communities in the latter part of the 2007-11 Parliamentary term and the SNP’s candidate for Airdrie & Shotts in the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary election.

Alex Salmond’s SNP Government has proved over the last four years that it delivers for the people of Scotland. Despite being a minority government and having massive spending cuts imposed on it by Westminster the SNP has achieved 84 out of 94 of its 2007 election promises.

The SNP Government has been a progressive government with fairness and social justice sitting alongside economic growth and employment as our top priorities.

The Council Tax has been frozen for four years, helping many families who aren’t on large incomes and who previously struggled to pay the 60% increases in council tax which had taken place during the first eight years of the Scottish Parliament. Labour’s destructive plans to close the Monklands and Ayr Accident and Emergency units were overturned. Tuition fees for our university students have been abolished, making it easier for children from families with modest incomes to be able to go to university. Prescription charges have also been abolished, benefiting 600,000 modest income families. We have also put an extra 1000 police on the beat, resulting in a 32 year low for recorded crime in Scotland.  And locally, in Airdrie and Shotts, we have delivered the new Airdrie-Bathgate line on budget and on time, and we are building the new Airdrie Health Centre.

If re-elected we will keep the council tax freeze for another five years, pending the introduction of a fairer system of local government finance in the 2016 parliament based on the ability to pay. We will keep the free bus passes for pensioners and the disabled intact – we fundamentally disagree with the Liberal Democrat and some Labour politicians’ position that these benefits should be curtailed. We will ring-fence the National Health Service budget in Scotland. Given the level of inflation in the NHS we need every penny we can use to improve it and ensure that it gets the level of investment needed to provide for those who are sick and disabled. We will also introduce new measures to further reduce crime rates, including an expansion of the highly successful schemes designed to engage young people in diversionary activity and prevent them from getting involved in crime.

Both locally and nationally our top priority will be to bring new jobs and industry to the area. I have always held the view that high levels of employment and low levels of unemployment are a pre-requisite to maximising the success of any economy and creating not just a wealthier but a happier society.

As Alex Salmond rightly says the opportunities from the renewable energy sector alone has the potential to create thousands of high quality jobs in Scotland. We also have huge potential in other sectors such as the biosciences. If we had control over our own natural resources then we could do even more to create the levels of investment in Scotland which could get our people back to work. That is why for me the independence referendum is key, as I believe that with sovereign power over our own country Scotland can become one of the most prosperous and fairest nations on the planet.